Getting your tongue pierced can temporarily affect your ability to eat, since pain and tongue swelling are the most common initial side effects of having a tongue ring placed. Survey results published in the January 2006 issue of “British Dental Journal” found that 34 percent of tongue piercees reported difficulty eating within the first 24 hours of tongue piercing. During this initial healing process, including easy-to-tolerate liquid and soft, bland foods can help you get the fluids and nutrition you need. Since this same study noted that only 2 percent of those surveyed still had problems eating after a week, chances are you can be back to your usual diet soon after having your ring placed.
After getting your tongue pierced, you will most likely experience swelling which can make chewing more challenging -- and risk accidentally biting your tongue. A liquid diet is often recommended the first day after the piercing -- or even for the first few days if you have a lot of pain, bleeding or swelling. Avoid hot liquids, though, as these may worsen discomfort. Try cooled, low sodium broth, gelatin, low-acid juices such as apple juice or sports drinks. Milk, yogurt, applesauce or pudding may also work well. Meal replacement drinks such as Ensure or Boost are designed to provide more nutrition if you find you have to rely on liquids for more than a day.
Once your symptoms start to improve, introduce soft and easy-to-chew foods into your diet. Avoid spicy, acidic or salty foods until your tongue is healed, as these can cause discomfort or pain. Soft fruit or soft cooked vegetables, pasta, rice, casseroles, grilled cheese sandwiches or tender, soft chicken or fish may work well. Place small bites of food directly on your molars, or the flat teeth in the back of the mouth, so you can keep food away from your tongue as you chew and swallow. Minimize sticky foods at first, such as oatmeal and mashed potatoes, as these foods can stick to your tongue ring. Any steps you can take to avoid irritating the tissue surrounding your new tongue ring can help expedite healing.
When your swelling and pain is minimal or gone, you should be able to eat most foods. But it may be challenging to get used to wearing a tongue ring, as certain foods may be irritating to eat, and since the ring can find its way in between your teeth as you chew. Prevent this by keeping your tongue level while you chew. Minimize or avoid caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes until your tongue is fully healed, as these substances can delay healing in the mouth, according to a review in the January 2014 issue of “ISRN Dentistry.”
To prevent infections and facilitate healing, rinse your mouth after eating and before you go to sleep at night. Salt water solutions may be recommended along with antimicrobial, alcohol-free mouth rinses such as Peridex. Recommendations published in “ISRN Dentistry” outline antimicrobial rinses be used up to 5 times a day, starting the day after ring placement, for a period of 10 days. After this, rinse as recommended by your dental professional.
Getting your tongue pierced can risk infection, and wearing a tongue ring long-term can lead to gum trauma, tooth fracture and chipping, according to a November 2005 article published in “American Family Physician.” If you plan to have an oral piercing, find a professional piercer who incorporates infection control procedures, and seek the advice of your dentist prior to having this done. In addition, if you have any health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or if you take blood thinners, discuss planned piercing with your medical doctor. Call your doctor if you have swelling and pain 1 week after your piercing, if you are unable to eat or drink adequately, or if you have any signs of infection such as fever or chills.
Reviewed by: Kay Peck, MPH, RD